Early last week, after a successful evening of bobcat-rustling, Maine game warden Jim Fahey admitted that the tale of the critter he live-trapped wasn’t even the best bobcat story he’d heard in recent weeks.
Fahey’s cat had a taste for chicken, you may recall, and ended up killing one of WLBZ TV meteorologist Steve McKay’s birds. The punchline: Fahey used that chicken — which the bobcat had dropped — for bait, and (as they say) the cat came back.
“You’ve got to talk to Joe Bailey,” Fahey said at the time. His fellow warden, Fahey assured me, would have a great tale to share.
He was right. This story, in fact, is the kind that deserves an entire episode on “North Woods Law.”
“I stopped in at B N’w Store in Passadumkeag [in late February or early March] and there was a fella there who met me, and he had said he had a bobcat in a live trap,” Bailey said earlier this week.
But this bobcat wasn’t captured near a chicken coop, or in the backyard. Nope, the man he met had a much closer encounter than that.
“It had come into his house through his cat flap and door, and had followed his cats in, I imagine,” Bailey said. “When he came home from work, it was in his kitchen, presumably sniffing around for something to eat.”
Now, before you start worrying about the homeowner’s two domestic cats, which presumably had served as the initial “bobcat bait,” don’t bother.
“There were no animals injured in this story,” Bailey said with a chuckle.
Bailey said the man got quite a shock when he walked into the kitchen.
“I imagine [the homeowner] was pretty surprised. That’s not something you expect,” Bailey said. “Not to mention [his concern over] having two cats of his own. He would usually be thinking, initially, that it was one of his own cats. But pretty quickly it becomes apparent that it’s a bobcat and not a house cat.”
The bobcat didn’t stick around for proper introductions to take place, Bailey said. Instead, it made a run for it … but didn’t end up exiting the home.
“It quickly ran down toward the basement,” Bailey said. “I’m sure it was a cool, dark place so a it was good place to retreat for the animal.”
The homeowner soon settled on a plan of action, and by the next morning, he had the cat packed up and ready for delivery to the local warden.
“He ended up putting a live trap down there with some hot dogs, sausage, stuff like that,” Bailey said.
After receiving delivery of the cat, Bailey said he fed it for a day, then delivered it to wildlife rehabilitator George Smith of Orono, who continued to feed it until its eventual release.
“It was a small cat, five to 10 pounds,” Bailey said. “[It was] very skinny, very hungry.”
And while Bailey hadn’t ever heard of a bobcat entering a house through a pet door, the case wasn’t particularly surprising to the young warden.
“I did have several other reports [this winter] of bobcats sitting outside of people’s bay windows or sliding glass doors, looking in at people’s domestic animals,” Bailey said. “Bunnies in a cage and stuff like that. [The bobcats] were sitting right on people’s porches, trying to figure out how to get to that bunny.”
The thought of a fresh rabbit fricassee might have been attractive to the hungry bobcats, but what, exactly, was the bait of choice for the home-invading bobcat?
Was he a true Maine cat, eager to chow down on our state’s famous red snappers?
I had to email Bailey to get that final detail that would make this column sing. I could already see the headline: “MAINE BOBCAT ENTERS HOME THROUGH PET DOOR, LOVE OF RED HOT DOGS PROVES ITS DOWNFALL.”
“They were not red hot dogs,” Bailey wrote back. “[That’s] likely why the bobcat refused to eat them and only went after the kielbasa!”
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